CHESAPEAKE, Va. — The complaints of two patrons prompted librarians to move an oil painting of a partially clothed woman to a less-public portion of the library, much to the artist's displeasure.
Artist Karen Kinser called the move an act of censorship based on complaints by the "art-ignorant."
For almost two weeks, "Morning Dreamer" appeared on a wall near the Chesapeake Public Library's main entrance, where approximately 12,000 people walked past the piece, according to library estimates.
After the complaints, the library staff in mid-July moved the painting to the other side of the building, behind some bookshelves.
Margaret Stillman, libraries director, said she loved Kinser's work, but she felt obliged to respond to the complaints about the 16-by-18-inch painting.
"We have a very keen sense of intellectual freedom tenets that are critical to a free library system, but we always apply common sense," she said. "In this case, we had a complaint about nudity."
Kinser's work, now in an area frequented by more adults than children, shows a woman lying in bed, daydreaming. The side of her breast and hip can be seen.
"More nudity can be observed at any public pool, beach or shopping mall," said Kinser, who questioned the mindset of the patrons who called the work "titillating."
Kinser described her work as sensual but not sexual. She said this was her first such incident since she started participating in the library's "art wall" exhibits about eight years ago.
On a recent visit to the library, patrons were observed walking past the painting and even sitting under it in a blue, wingback chair beside some paperbacks.
"No, it wouldn't offend me," said Mary Indilla, 74, of Franklin, who was killing time at the library as she waited for her 4-year-old granddaughter, Anna.
"If you go to any museum you will see nudes," Indilla said. "Of course, children point it out to you, and you explain to them it is the human body and it's a work of art."
Jessica Wedeman, 15, a Hickory High School junior, said she didn't think there was anything wrong with teenagers and adults seeing the painting, but she could see how a mother with children might find it offensive.
"It gives a hint of something more," she said.
Stillman couldn't say whether any children noticed the painting. She pointed out that it wasn't removed from the library, "just taken out of the pathway to the children's room."
When asked what she would do if two patrons complained about something on display in the library that they found disturbing, Stillman said complaints were taken on a case-by-case basis.
"Every situation is different," she said. "We do not apply just randomly a black-and-white rule to everything. We would take their complaint under consideration and respond to it."